Nick Clegg is to hold an hour-long phone-in next week on mental health. The Deputy Prime Minister will host the session himself on LBC on Monday. This is part of the emphasis that the Lib Dems are placing on mental health in their election campaigning.
Now, there are lots of good reasons why the Lib Dems might want to campaign on mental health, including that it jolly well needs campaigning on because it is, as Clegg says, a ‘Cinderella service’ that suffers from long waits, poor research and less funding, yet one in four people will suffer from some kind of mental ill-health.
But there are sound political reasons too. The first is that it is very popular with potential Lib Dem voters, as explained here. The second is that the party sees talking about mental health as being its best way of gaining a foothold in the wider NHS debate. Labour talks about privatisation and the Health and Social Care Act, the Tories talk about being the patients’ champions, and the Lib Dems can talk about something else that they see as being suitably distinct from those two issues. This is something Lib Dem strategists identified when trying to work out how the party should talk about the health service, particularly given it was involved in passing the Health and Social Care Act and doesn’t want to spend too much time reminding voters of that.